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Folio Weekly Exhibition Artist Highlight: William Schaaf



Each week, The Cummer will be highlighting each of the 50 artists represented in the upcoming Folio Weekly Invitational Artist Exhibition, on view at the Museum from August 24 – December 2.

William Schaaf, Suwannee (Shinto Fertility Fetish), 2012, 3/9 Bronze Edition, 29 x 14 x 16 in., Courtesy of the Artist

William Schaaf, Suwannee (Shinto Fertility Fetish), 2012, 3/9 Bronze Edition, 29 x 14 x 16 in., Courtesy of the Artist

William Schaaf was born in Richmond, Virginia, in l944.  He has a B.F.A. from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a M.F.A. from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, both in Painting and Printmaking.  Aside from occasional jobs refurbishing houses, landscaping design, driving tractor-trailer trucks, he has made his living from art business sales, teaching and visiting-artist situations. For many years he has used Art as a Healing Agent with so-called ADD, autistic, abused, and exceptional young persons. He was an early consultant for the Arts In Medicine Program, Shands Hospital, Gainesville, Fl.

Academically, he has served many roles… professor, lecturer, workshop facilitator, visiting artist, in over 25 different institutions, including Southern Illinois University, Penn State University, York University, Toronto, Wayne State University, Detroit, Princeton University, N.J., Universities of Illinois, Florida, Wisconsin, S. Florida, Miami and others.

He has provided for dozens of drawing/writing creative process workshops in such places as: The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, N.Y., The Penland School of Crafts, N.C., Shands Medical Center, Hospice of N. Florida, both of Gainesville, Fl., University Medical Center, Jacksonville, Fl., Valencia Community College, Orlando, The Ringling School of Art & Design, Sarasota, Fl., and some of the afore-mentioned universities.

He has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the MacDowell Colony (twice) at Peterborough, N.H., the Ossabaw Island Project, (twice) Savannah, Ga., and the Virginia Center for the Arts. He has twice been awarded Individual Artist’s Grants from the State of Florida, and served on the Florida Individual Artist’s Grant Panels for the State of Florida. He was an Alternate in Painting for the American Academy in Rome and worked on Christo’s Surrounded Island Project in Miami, Florida.  He was invited as a visiting artist and scholar to the Marino Marini Foundation Headquarters, Pistoia, Italy.

He has exhibited in some 100 group shows, plus some 25 one-person exhibitions in many major U.S. cities, in such galleries as Robert Friedus and Allan Stone, N.Y., Chiaroscuro Gallery, Santa Fe, N.M., The Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville, The Ringling School, Sarasota, Fl., The Tampa Museum of Art, Fl., Jacksonville Museum of Art, Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Fl., The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Fl., Samuel P. Harn Museum, Gainesville, Fl., Gulf Coast Museum of Art, Largo, Fl., the Orlando Museum of Art, Fl., and the J. Johnson Gallery, Jacksonville, Fl.  His work is in many private, corporate, and museum collections including: The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Fl., Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art, Fl., Deland Museum of Art, Fl., Vero Beach Museum of Art, Fl., The Tampa Museum of Art, Fl., The Orlando Museum of Art, FL., The Kentucky Derby Museum of Art, Lexington, Convergys Corporation, Lake Mary, Fl., Alabama Power Corporation, Birmingham, City of Orlando, Fl., General Telephone and Electric, Tampa, Bell South Corporation, Jacksonville, Fl., Tupperware Corporation, Kissimmee, Fl., Berol Corporation, Ct., State of Florida, Tallahassee, Robert Rauschenberg Estate, Sanibel, Fl., Jennifer Johnson Collection, Fl., Ed Harris Collection, Malibu, Ca., David Cofrin Collection, Gainesville, and others.

His work has been featured in Spur Magazine, The Equine Image, Sky Magazine (Delta Airlines), Sculpture Magazine, Horizon Magazine, Art In America, Notes to A Young Painter, Hiram Williams/book, The Drawing Handbook: An Approach, Stuart Purser/book. He has been featured in videos for television (WUFT-TV, Gainesville), and was a guest speaker for, Voices in the Wind, National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.

William Schaaf’s early influential teachers, especially Hiram Williams, gave him a notion that art was a way of life, a lifelong vocation, a place where the spirit of one’s own nature and Self could be sought and found. A project at the University of Florida in his sophomore year put him on the path with the horse and rider theme, which has been varying and cross-pollinating in both 2 & 3-D applications. Rembrandt’s Polish Rider led to what has become a lifelong devotion for well over 45 years. Perhaps childhood memories of heroic Italian monuments or the majestic equine statues of Richmond, Va., his early homes, had incubated long enough.

The 2-D works, usually mixed-media, are as pages out of a diary, often taking years to produce. There is a constant adding and subtracting, fusings of paint to surface, with a resulting rich matrix of markings and scratchings, events that denote history and time.  These 2-D pieces serve as windows through which one can travel expressionistically, realistically, abstractly, psychically. The horse serves as a kind of magic guide, a guardian & protector, a force of soul, accompanied by spirit beings, helpers, guardians, parts of self along for the ride.  Journeys are of visions, dreams, places of power and mystery, healing and discovery.

The 3-D works are characterized with some of the same modes as the 2-D works. The sculpture is influenced by a Japanese aesthetic, and more recently by the simple elegance of the many Native American fetish and doll makers. There is a love of Wabi-Sabi, of accidental happenings of nature, of surface and beauty, all the while serving functionally as ‘medicine’ pieces, reliquaries, works of intention (fetish) and prayer. They may serve as votive offerings which try to honor and emulate the various indigenous traditions that he is attracted to. The horses are often about primal elemental energies long-associated with the equine. In essence, the sculptures are simply fetishes, made large.

He works in stone, wood, clay, which are frequently translated to bronze editions. They are then patinated (visualize watercoloring with acids) so they will resemble lapis, jade, turquoise, which he considers the healing stones. For nearly 40 years, he has been in collaboration with Rick Frignoca, at the Bronzart Foundry, Sarasota, Fl.  It is a full service foundry, which does everything, including the enlargement and adaptation of any sculpture to any required situation.

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Director of Art Education